Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Frances Fox Piven, the elderly academic who's become one of Glenn Beck's Antichrists, can't seem to inspire the popular progressive protests she admires, but Beck has succeeding in inspiring quite a few right-wingers to want to kill her. I guess I'm glad that Barbara Ehrenreich is writing about that in an L.A. Times editorial, but I think Ehrenreich is misreading the political landscape:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over....

The question has been raised many times in the last few years ... but when the eminent social scientist Frances Fox Piven brought it up at the end of December in an essay titled "Mobilizing the Jobless," all hell broke loose. An editor of Glenn Beck's website,, posted a piece sporting the specious headline "Frances Fox Piven Rings in the New Year by Calling for Violent Revolution," and, just two weeks before the Tucson shootings, the death threats started flying.

...So perhaps economically hard-pressed Americans aren't wusses after all. They may not have the courage or the know-how to organize a protest at the local unemployment office, which is the kind of action Piven urged in her December essay, but they stand ready to shoot the first 78-year-old social scientist who suggests that they do so.

... at least part of the explanation is guns themselves -- or, more specifically, the recent and uniquely American addiction to high-powered personal weaponry.... As Joan Burbick, author of the 2006 book, "Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy," has observed, "The act of buying a gun can mimic political action. It makes people feel as if they are engaging in politics of political protest." She quotes one gun enthusiast: "Whenever I get mad at the government, I go out and buy a gun." Jobless and overwhelmed by bills? Hunker down in the basement and polish your Glock....

Ehrenreich seems to have overlooked one obvious fact: some Americans have taken to the streets in the last couple of years with great frequency. Those Americans are right-wing Americans. It's only lefties who've wussed out -- we don't protest and we don't arm ourselves. Right-wingers do both.

The tea party types who've demonstrated in the past two years, at congressional town halls and in public spaces, haven't refrained from protesting at banks and fat cats' houses because they're wusses -- they've done so because they don't think those are the enemies. It's only the people who can correctly identify the enemies of ordinary citizens who are afraid to protest.


Elsewhere on the gun front, there's this in today's New York Times:

In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?

The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there is a reason for that. Scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off money for such work....

The amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result, researchers say....

In 1996, Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centers' budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before....

You can go to the story to read the details. Suffice to say, it's clear that the NRA made demands and -- as usual -- got exactly what it wanted.

I'm refraining from calling this a sort of one-issue fascism, but, well, what do fascists do? They intimidate political enemies -- as does the NRA. They shut down media dissent -- as does the NRA. The word isn't entirely inappropriate.


I suppose the way to tie these loose ends together is to quote a recent editorial from Esquire:

Since 1964, the respectable members of the national Republican party made a conscious choice to ally themselves with the remnants of American apartheid. Throughout the 1980s, conservatives in the South and West played footsie with dangerous, armed militia groups. There is an armed terrorist wing of the anti-choice movement that, to our knowledge, has not given the politicians allied with that movement a single moment's pause to reconsider their support for it. During the firestorm surrounding the prolonged death of Terri Schiavo, people came right up to the edge of threatening federal judges on the floor of the Congress, and this not long after a rightist gunman murdered the spouse of a federal judge on his doorstep.

... The country-club set allied itself for the purpose of gaining and maintaining political power with people whose idea of political violence is slightly more than theoretical, egged on by an exaltation of vicious clowns on the radio and television, and to have heard them all defend the open brandishing of firearms at political rallies last summer was to have heard clearly the warning.

..."We don't have guns, but we know people who do."

Do the rich really use the gun-rights crowd as an army of intimidation? I don't know if it's that simple, but it's curious how it all works. The people who love the fat cats are the people who protest and threaten gun violence -- and it's all neatly tied together in the realm of "mainstream" Republican politics, isn't it?

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